It may not feel like it yet, but today is officially the first day of spring! That means spring fever is slowly creeping in and gardeners everywhere are starting to break out tools, tend to soil, and grow seedling indoors to prepare for spring planting. There is a lot more to planting than sticking seeds in the ground. Whether you’re new to gardening, want your new home in Birmingham to make a lasting impressing with colorful flowering plants, or desire to grow your own fruits and vegetables, below are some quick tips for spring planting.
Select a Site and Plant Type
If you are just getting started, your initial goal should be to develop a landscape plan. This doesn’t have to be a professional endeavor; just a simple list of goals and problems that need to be solved. When scouting your property, consider the challenges that can arise. Here are some factors to consider:
- Does the area receive at least six hours of direct sunlight every day?
- Is it an area where soil drains adequately?
- Are there existing plants, such as invasive species, that need to be removed?
- Will the plants be protected from intense winds?
- Is there a water source nearby?
Once you scout your property, you’ll want to select the types of plants. Do you want to grow vegetables, or native Birmingham plants such as Yaupon Holly, Plumleaf Azalea, or Rain Lily? Each requires special attention and soil treatment.
Start Spring Planting Indoors and Conduct Basic Maintenance
Beginning in late February and early March, seeding should start indoors. Many different vessels can be used to start seed indoors such as toilet paper rolls, ice cube trays, egg cartons and paper cups. Vegetables such as cabbage, kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts can be placed outdoors early to late March, while cucumbers, eggplants, pumpkins, squash and tomatoes are better transplanted outdoors in late April or early May. February is a great time to sow tomatoes and peppers, and in late February there are several cool weather hardy vegetables you can directly sow out in the garden. Summer flowering bulbs and tubers should be planted after the last frost date, which is April 19 for Birmingham areas.
While patiently waiting for spring temperatures to arrive, you should start basic maintenance and cleanup about a month before planting, March 20, the official First Day of Spring is ideal for this. Gardening should always begin from the ground up, so it’s important to have your soil tested. A good soil test will identify the current pH level (acidity or alkalinity), soil texture (sand, loam, clay, or a combination), macronutrients (Ph, K, Mg, Ca), and major micronutrients (Zn, Cu, Mn, B, Fe), as well as give you soil amendment recommendations for necessary adjustments. Soil tests that provide all of this information are available from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) starting at seven dollars.
Create a Planting Calendar
Regardless of whether you start seedlings indoors or purchase small plants to transplant into your garden, it’s important to plant them at the right time. Cool-season crops – which include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, and onions – can be planted early in the season. Warm-season crops – which include eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes – should be planted only after there’s no risk of frost, typically toward the end of May. This Alabama Gardening Calendar from the ACES is a great guide for best times to plant in Alabama.
Planting time for spring flowers typically depends on whether you’re planting seeds, seedlings, plants or bulbs. Beautiful summer-flowering bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and lilies can be planted in spring. Tender bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and begonias are not frost-friendly so they need to start in pots indoors during the spring. Spring is also the time to plant colorful primulas, heathers and hybrid primroses to perk up your patio pots. It’s also a perfect time for planting perennials including lupins, delphiniums, foxgloves and peonies.
The key to proper planting begins with knowing the area you’re living in. We have communities across the Birmingham metro and in Auburn that breed perfect grounds for sowing a garden. Learn more about our community locations here.